BEAUMONT, Calif. — A local mom will compete on the TV show American Ninja Warrior this month with hopes of raising awareness for the life-saving cause that helped save her son's life.
Katie Lanza was inspired to train to overcome physical obstacles as her son battled to overcome a rare and potentially fatal condition.
What You Need To Know
- Katie Lanza will compete on American Ninja Warrior this month with hopes of raising awareness for the life-saving cause that helped save her son's life
- Lanza's son Nolan has HLH, where white blood cells build up in and damage tissues and organs
- The only cure for HLH is a blood stem cell transplant, and Nolan was lucky to find a donor quickly
- Lanza hopes to use the spotlight on ANW to encourage others to join the bone marrow registry
Lanza had no idea she could donate blood from her baby's umbilical cord after birth — potentially saving the lives of other children — until her infant son got sick.
“The full name for it is hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, and basically it is a blood disease," said Lanza. "He’s unable to fight infections off."
With HLH, the body attacks itself. White blood cells build up in and damage tissues and organs.
“HLH is super aggressive," she said. "They have to get to transplant as soon as possible. If we would have been waiting on the registry for even a few months, our outcome could have been fatal."
The only cure for HLH is a blood stem cell transplant, and Nolan was lucky to find a donor quickly: a baby girl, born half a world away in Italy. Blood stem cells from the baby’s umbilical cord, taken after she was born, saved Nolan’s life.
Lanza vows to pay it forward using a national platform to promote donation: the TV show American Ninja Warrior. She’s set up a training gym in her Beaumont home, and Nolan is now his mom’s biggest cheerleader.
“He’s a super happy healthy toddler," she said. "He loves to be active. He trains with me.”
Lanza will compete on the show this month and hopes to use the spotlight to encourage others to join the bone marrow registry. Nolan’s battle was only won because a stranger decided to donate.
“Every day, every night when I kiss him to sleep, like, I just feel like so grateful and I know that this this could not have been our outcome, and I know that there are parents who are still fighting,” Lanza contended.
It’s very easy to join the “Be The Match” registry at https://bethematch.org. It just takes a check swab with a kit sent to your home.
The organization says COVID-19 has made it harder to find young, healthy donors with many college campuses closed, and fairs and events cancelled. They especially need more diverse donors to join the registry at the moment.